Ama is a close friend of mine who is very outspoken. She is a lady everybody would like to be with because she is very charming.
But contrary to that, people either hold their breath when she is speaking to them or try as much as possible to avoid getting in contact with her due to the smell that comes out of her mouth anytime she speaks.
Well, because she is a friend, it is very difficult to avoid her or tell her about the bad odour.
In my quest to help her, I learnt that she is suffering from halitosis.
Halitosis is simply bad breath, or more specifically, chronic bad breath that persists even when the individual afflicted with halitosis takes steps to reduce it.
Most a times, the people with mouth odour don't know or realise it until they're told.
It is a problem that is disturbing and there seems to be no public education about it.
Imagine a work colleague with mouth odour or your boss with mouth odour.
How do you communicate it to the colleague or your boss?
Is it good to tell the colleague about it and how would you break it to that colleague without hurting him or her?
The fear of losing a friend deters people from breaking it to friends who have mouth odour problems.
It could also prevent customers from patronising a particular service
In an interview with Dr Alex Owusu Ansah, a dentist based in Accra, he said halitosis could be objective or subjective.
He explained that Halitophobia is when an individual psychologically perceives he has halitosis.
He said the treatment for Halitophobia is psychocological.
“The individual has to be talked out of it. People feel they have halitosis because they feel when they're talking and people cover their mouth is because if their mouth odour that is making them react that way and objective halitosis is when an individual is told he or she has halitosis”.
Many people have different opinions on the causes of this disgraceful disease. Some say it is caused by not brushing twice daily, while others say it is spiritual and can't be prevented or cured.
Touching on the causes of mouth odour, Dr Ansah said it is caused by intra-oral and extra-oral factors.
“These are the intra-oral causes that emanates from the mouth and the extra oral causes also as a result of a disorder in the stomach,” he explained.
According to him, 15% of halitosis cases are caused by extra-oral factors while intra-oral factors cause a large number of halitosis cases.
According to Dr Ansah, there are so many causes of intraoral mouth odour, some of which include bacteria in the mouth.
He said: “The primary origin is as a result of food that is packed on the grooves (a groove is a long narrow depression on a surface of the tongue).
"When an individual eats, the food gets trapped at the very back of the tongue and bacteria acts on them which produces bad gases which cause bad breath.
He added that tooth decay and mouth sores could also cause bad breath.
These are as a result of a condition from the Gastric Intestinal System (G.I.S) or simply from the stomach. An individual can have bad breath as a result of a condition in the respiratory system (i.e. issues having to do with the lungs or the breathing system).
Prevention and management
In order to know how to prevent halitosis, the individual first of all has to know what caused it and then he or she can get the treatment to the cause. One simple but important thing to do in preventing halitosis is the habit of rinsing the mouth right after eating. “This is because these bacteria’s act on the food particles in the mouth especially protein particles stuck in-between the teeth and on the tongue to cause the bad breath. So if you rinse your mouth after eating there is less particles for the bacteria to act on to produce these offensive gases”.
Also another important thing that prevents us from halitosis is avoiding a dry mouth.
"Saliva is a very important thing we have in our mouth which protects our teeth and prevents us from having mouth odour". What it does is that, it constantly washes our mouth. It rinsed and cleanses around the teeth getting rid of all these bacteria by products and reducing the load of bacteria in our mouth.
He added "everyone has got these bacteria in the mouth but the issue is, what bacteria you have and the proportion of them and their by-products".
Another way of preventing halitosis is brushing before going to bed. When we sleep, because of low saliva production in the mouth, these bacteria reproduce themselves and multiply in number and act on the food remains in our mouth because we don't brush before going to bed and produce a lot of these foul gases leading to waking-up with bad breath.
'Key to the brushing, is the fact that we should brush our tongue especially as far back of the tongue as we can go" he added.
Dr. Owusu added that it is also important that after brushing, we do not rinse our mouth with water most importantly at night; all you have to do is to spit out the paste and go to bed.
Dr. also recommended that we use pastes that contain fluoride. Since fluoride inhibits bacteria from reproducing itself.
One would have to consider the temperament of the affected person he/she is trying to communicate to in order to avoid anger issues or anything that may result into misunderstanding Mr Andrews Asamoah-Boaky, a communication lecturer at Pentecost University College said.
He explained that one of the ways to communicate to a colleague with a problem of mouth odour without hurting them or getting them angry is to be a jovial about it.
He said, "the issue of halitosis is very difficult to handle at times”. He added, it's quite easier to handle it when it's a friend.
He added, “There are several factors that have to be considered before one can communicate this to a colleague”.
Also, the setting or the location has to be checked. You should not break such an issue to a colleague in public in order to avoid embarrassment.
He added, “in communication, feedback is very important because it accesses a person's performance of a task which is used as a basis for improvement".
As to whether the individual took your advice or not will be based on the feedback you will receive.
Taking note of these will help prevent halitosis and if not completely reduce its effect.